March 22, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Joined now by Washington State University. Coach, if you want to give us your thoughts on the game.
COACH BENNETT: Well, obviously we did what we needed to do. We made it our kind of game. It started with our transition defense. No question.
These guys bought in at a new level tonight playing against a very talented offensive team. And each one of them stepped up in their own right and were significant. But we got the game the way we needed to get the game. We didn't yield. We didn't let them get easy shots. We made them earn all night. If we can do that, we're always in good shape. The guys showed some composure. Feels great. Big step for our program. I challenged them before the game. I said, You were in this spot last year against Vanderbilt. I said, now have we learned from it? Are we going to go out there and what cost us against Vanderbilt? Are we going to learn from that? They certainly did. It's a good moment for Washington State basketball certainly.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. You gave up 17 of 78 to your opponents in the last three halves. What is going so well for you guys defensively right now?
Robbie Cowgill: I think for us in this tournament we have to play solid defense to be competitive and to be in games and advance.
Coach has been telling us all year, that's got to be our ticket. We have to be a very solid defensive team to be in games. I feel like we were in a league where a lot of good offensive talent, a lot of good offensive players, that obviously helps your team D.
But I think the main thing is we know that has to be our bread and butter if we're going to do well in this tournament.
Q. You talked about the year about having unfinished business. Tonight was that part of what you thought about before the game, moving on to the next round?
Kyle Weaver: Well, coach showed us a picture of the score and the time of the second round game last year, showed it to everybody. You know, it was quiet. Everybody just looked at it, you know. Kind of soaked that moment in.
I think from that moment I think the team realized that we had a chance to come out and do something special by winning this game and to advance, show a little progress from last year.
I wouldn't say it's finished yet. We got a long way to go. We got a few days to get ready for our next opponent. We'll see what happens at Charlotte.
Q. Now that you are at the Sweet 16 level, is the pressure off? Is this the rest of this gravy or is it a different approach now?
Derrick Low: There's still gonna be pressure, I mean. But we can't worry about any of that. We got to worry about our own team and ourselves. We just got to go out and play our game. It's new territory for us to go to the Sweet 16. But I think that's what we all, you know, were preparing for ever since we came to Washington State, for this moment.
I think we're ready for it. We're just gonna, you know, take this as a challenge, play our game and see what happens.
Q. Kyle, do you have bragging rights in the Weaver household yet in terms of basketball accomplishments or is it going to take an NCAA title for that?
Kyle Weaver: The title will be the ultimate. But I think I'm getting pretty close (smiling). Even just making it here back to back, I don't know if my dad can really beat that. I'm getting close.
Q. Kyle, I know you envisioned games going this way in your dreams, but did it surprise you to hold them to 25% shooting and have them out of the game as early as you did? How much of a surprise?
Kyle Weaver: Man, it feels like a dream right now. I'm still, you know, trying to take all this in as we speak.
But to go out and perform like that, you know, and to beat a good team like Notre Dame by 20 points in a second round matchup, it was pretty neat. I think we were all ready tonight. I think we just wanted to come out and play as good as we can. I think we're starting to find our niche and starting to do it at a good time.
Q. Was there any point you really felt Notre Dame got frustrated? You talked that's when you guys are able to put teams away.
Derrick Low: Did we ever since they were getting frustrated?
Q. Yes. At what point?
Derrick Low: I can't remember at what point, but you could we could definitely sense it a little bit. You know, the way we were guarding their perimeter, you know, and the way we were guarding their post. Seemed like they were just kind of just trying to rush into the post and just kind of throw up some shots. You know, I thought that's a sign of frustration on their part.
But it was just, you know, our job to just try and make them take those kind of shots, and I thought we did a good job at that, then we tried to secure the rebounds.
Q. After watching the two No. 4 seeds lose yesterday, does this put any special meaning advancing as the No. 4 seed?
Robbie Cowgill: Yeah, I guess. I don't think we were thinking about that at all going in. You know, I think after the selection show, we pretty much put the seed behind us. You know, I think we were probably the underdog going into this one. Most people probably had us losing this game, even watching some of the coverage last night.
So, no, I don't think that was in our heads. We knew this was going to be a tough, physical, grind out game, and that's what our focus was.
Q. What's the like to be here going to the Sweet 16 just two years after you were last place in the PAC 10? Can you describe what that turnaround has been like?
Kyle Weaver: Being last in the PAC 10 to where we are now, it's pretty hard to put into words. I think it just shows how much we've grown as players and as a team every year. This is what we dream about, this is what we've been working for. We put in the time, the blood, the sweat and tears, and it's starting to pay off.
Q. We all just witnessed it, but I'm wondering if you can put into words how you were able to hold Notre Dame to half of its scoring average.
Robbie Cowgill: I think first and foremost, just getting back. They love to run. They want to score in the 80s. They want to push the ball and take quick shots, open threes early. So we knew if we had a chance at this game, we were going to have to get back and make them play halfcourt offense against our set halfcourt D. I think for almost the whole game we did that. That probably frustrated them. They like to get into a flow, get running, kind of get on runs and spurts like that where they're going and shooting quick.
That was kind of our key in this game, was getting back and making them play against our set halfcourt D.
Q. Robbie, Aron did a lot of the work, but can you talk about the effort on Luke. He was held to 3 of 17, talk about some of the frustration he was feeling.
Robbie Cowgill: Aaron is a big guy. You know when you face him every day in practice, he's just a big human being. When he can get between Luke and the basket, make him take tough shots over him, I think it was hard for him. I think Aron did a good job of staying down, staying in front of him. Really any time we play pretty solid defense against a post guy, it's everyone. We had the trap on. I think that maybe frustrated them a little bit, helped. The guards did a great job of rotating. I think also the refs let us play. They let us be physical in there. Sometimes he tries to create contact and get some of those. That didn't happen tonight.
It was really a good team effort on Luke the whole way around.
Q. You just held two tournament teams to 40 and 41 points. Without getting too technical, what is it that you do, what is it that seems to completely unsettle these teams that haven't seen you before?
Kyle Weaver: Oh, man, what is it that we do? I don't think we have any trickery or any magic that we come out with, secret power (clapping hands twice).
There's no secret. We play our pack defense, try to keep the ball out of the paint, make the opposing team shoot tough shots. I think as team we did a pretty good job of that, sometimes trapping the post, making Harangody to do different things with it and forcing other guys to make shots on their team. With a mix of some other small things, I think us just playing hard, too, the effort we put in on the defensive end tonight I think was pretty big time.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys. Questions for coach.
Q. Coach, talk about what you and your dad talked about when you met with him.
COACH BENNETT: He was real happy. He said, Great job, son. He's proud of these guys. I told the CBS people he deserves so much credit. He started this thing, installed the system. He just wanted it so much. He told all the guys when we walked into the arena today, he said, No fears, no regrets. He just kind of told them that. I caught his eye late in the game. I think he was praying when I met him. I couldn't make contact about three or four minutes left. Pretty excited.
I need to embrace my wife, mom and dad, my two kids. That's what you want to do in that moment, is share it. I got to go along on the ride with him in 2000 when they went to the Final Four. I remember how special each step of that was. He's obviously been a huge part of my life and it was pretty cool to do that.
Q. Your overall defensive alertness seemed right on the mark. Things that stood out in your mind?
COACH BENNETT: What I said in the opening statement, just getting back, just get back and make them play against a set defense. That was our first rule. That was huge. They tried to dribble penetrate, we were in our gaps, made them shoot contested shots. I thought the trap was good at times, we were pretty good at on the glass. They had 12 offensive rebounds.
Guys were just really locked in. It was a possession by possession battle, we told them. They wouldn't break down. I think they had one transition basket where we followed them in transition. But that was the only breakdown in transition defense. That's a great place to start.
Q. Thursday night Derrick got off to a slow start, 0 5 in the first half. Tonight scores six points in the first five minutes. Did that make you breathe earlier?
COACH BENNETT: When Derrick is aggressive, that helps us. I tell you what, I was so impressed with Derrick, that's the best I've seen him defensively, active with his hands, digging out loose balls. He had a tough job because that kid is a great offensive rebounder, Tory Jackson. He ended up with three. We challenged him to keep him off the glass. I thought Derrick defensively was as impressive as I've seen him in the gaps. Then offensively he hit that dagger with a three. He moves. He's a complete guard.
I was so pleased with his performance tonight. He was aggressive. His 6 for 15, but he hunted the shot and he stayed focused all game. I thought that was significant for us.
Q. Could you talk about Taylor, his defense.
COACH BENNETT: Taylor, boy, he really didn't allow we said Kyle is like yeah, Kyle is like Appleby from the Huskies. Know how quick he is. He has such a quick release, he'll shoot it from deep. You have to hound him like you're guarding Appleby. Beat screens, don't give him clean looks, like he did to Jenkins the night before, mind you, because he was pretty good against him. He really worked. I think he was a little fatigued offensively, didn't have a typical game. He did have sevens assists, two turnovers. He took care of the ball. That's another thing I didn't mention.
But Taylor was very good both nights. Kyle did not get too many clean looks on the offensive end. I thought he and Derrick are one and two, out front. Kyle was rebounding. He was good tonight. We had the trap working. Every guy was good individually. I said, You got to have accountability to yourself, handling your own guy. But they were very good as a team and it came together at the right time.
Q. Aron played most of the second half with three fouls. What were you and the other coaches thinking?
COACH BENNETT: We felt we needed him on the glass. There came a point we couldn't withstand it. He ended up with 11 boards. His first foul concerned me. But he played smart without getting another one. When he picked up his third, there's a point in the game where we said we have to be able to control the boards. You saw Aron go up. He can do that better than most of our guys, rebounding in traffic. I thought that, again, was another big part of his game that helped us.
Q. Kyle mentioned the picture. When did you come up with that idea?
COACH BENNETT: Well, my wife, she had a picture. It was actually a picture of the scoreboard before we played Vanderbilt. It said 20 minutes on the clock, 0 0, Washington State versus Vanderbilt. Picture that big picture. She said, I had this. I said, I love that, I think I can use that. She said you might want to use this because she showed it to me. I said, That's perfect.
I showed them that. I said before the game, fellas, here we are. I want everybody to take a look at this picture. I said, You were in this spot last year before the game. Remember the thoughts going through your head? I said, What can you do better to get us one step further? What have you learned from this experience? Against Vanderbilt, we played well for the most part, but I didn't think defensively we were as tough as we needed to be. We gave up some transition baskets. Turned over late down the stretch of the game. Things happened. Derrick wasn't as assertive. I said, Show me that you have learned from this experience. That's what I want to see. That was the picture. They saw it. After the game, I ripped it up in front of them and said, You did it.
Q. Does Weaver surprise even you when he seemingly comes out of nowhere for a rebound or slips through for a layup?
COACH BENNETT: I've seen him do that now. But I feel like the last few games, he's taken it to another level rebounding the basketball. That's been huge for us. What he did against Stanford, even though we lost in the PAC 10 tournament, he rebounded at a high level.
Kyle is so versatile, his ability to slash, drop passes, make plays offensively. But that ability to rebound is really I think the thing that has jumped up in the last few weeks of the season. You know, he's made a difference. He's really playing sound basketball. It's real good to see.
I didn't mention this. I think our league really prepared us for this game. The PAC 10, you know, every night you go out, you got to battle. You play against different kinds of styles. It's hard fought. That was my hope this year, if we could get in the tournament, the league was going to beat each other up, but it would prepare you to play in games like this. I really believe that the PAC 10 did.
Q. Could you speak to Caleb's contributions?
COACH BENNETT: Caleb gave us a great lift early. People who haven't seen him for a while look at him. Like I said, he doesn't move the smoothest, but he was aggressive, loosening up, knocking down shots at very timely times, opportune times for us. There were some stretches where we weren't scoring. Him to loosen the defense up with that shot was good.
He gives you all effort. You know, he had five rebounds, too, in 15 minutes. They were important minutes with Aron picking up a foul, the fatigue factor of trying to run the floor with Luke. I thought his minutes were very valuable. That shot, he saw that on Thursday, he can knock down that shot when he screens or loosens. We found them. We attacked them.
Q. Can you talk about what the plan was on Harangody and how you were so effective?
COACH BENNETT: Certainly to run the floor and get our defense set. Wanted to kind of throw it on and off. A guy like John Brockman in our league is a tremendous player. There's some similarities between the two of them. When we thought when we got it, trap him hard, get it out of his hands. I watched a lot of tape. I don't know if many Big East teams have done that. We had some success with it. We thought that would be important, try and keep our big guys out of foul trouble. It makes us more assertive and aggressive. We got a couple key turnovers off of that. There were times when we didn't trap, just to throw a different look at him. Our guys really pinched the gaps, stayed down, make him make shots over the top.
Q. What has it been like from a coaching standpoint, the turnaround this team has taken?
COACH BENNETT: It's remarkable. It's a great story. Because it's with the right kind of kids, character. There's no shortcut to doing it the right way. We got the right kind of kids. You can see that when you talk to them. They bought into a vision. They haven't wavered.
You know, you can lose with them. That's what my dad said. You got to recruit kids you can lose with before we win. I can't tell you the character in our locker room. They're a joy to coach. Sometimes we drive each other nuts. But you can always look at each other and know that it's about the right stuff.
That's what Washington State's about, Pullman. It's a fighter, underdog, fighter mentality. The people embrace that there. There's nothing better than going to a place where people don't think it can be done. But the administration and the community believes you, they embrace it when you're competitive to start. That's what drew my dad out of retirement. I want to go to a place where they don't think it can be done. He's never experienced something like that, people were so thankful they fought hard. Even though we finished in last place, they believed, were encouraged. For those people who suffered a long time, this is a great reward for them.
It's a special place to be, a special group of kids to do something like that. Now I get to go back to Charlotte, where I met my wife, she's not from there, got to play with the Hornets for three years. That will be very special for our family to go back. But I'm just very thankful right now for what I've had the opportunity to be a part of.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks very much, coach.
THE MODERATOR: Joined now by Notre Dame. Coach, if you want to begin with thoughts on the game.
COACH BREY: I think you certainly take your hat off to Washington State. They imposed their will on us. You know, the first four minutes we had that thing going up and down a little bit, but after that we couldn't really get it moving.
I thought they played older, and they are older. Very good defensively. Smart offensively. So they certainly deserve to move on.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student athletes.
Q. Luke, talk about what's going through your mind now. This was obviously the biggest game of the year for you. To come up this short, how do you explain it and how does it feel?
LUKE HARANGODY: You know, well, coming into this game, we were very confident. We were ready to play. I don't think there was any doubt about that. But we faced a great Washington State team tonight. Like coach said, hats off to them. Very senior leading team.
Not much we can say about that. The feeling right now is disappointment, obviously, with myself, with my performance, you know. I kind of feel like I let the guys down. You know, just wasn't my night.
Q. What happened? What did they do defensively out there to cause you, to slow you up?
KYLE MCALARNEY: Well, we didn't shoot the ball very well in. In the first half we had some pretty good looks and they just didn't fall for us.
Like Coach Brey said, they're a very good team, a veteran team. We can use this game and learn a lot from it. In the off season, we'll probably use this as motivation and off season workouts.
Today they just got us. Defensively they were better than us. Like I said, you know, that's going to be used as motivation in the off season.
Q. Kyle, it seemed like you could never get in transition tonight. What were they doing? Were they getting up into you right away or... ?
KYLE MCALARNEY: Well, a couple times, you know, they just got back and they played very good defense. We went on a little run in the second half there due to our rebounding and transition game. But we can't get out in transition if we can't get stops. They were really flowing offensively and they were really in a good rhythm.
So it was very hard for us to get out in transition.
Q. Kyle, when you look back on this game in July, what will you remember about it?
KYLE MCALARNEY: Well, I mean, it was disappointing, you know. For me, you know, it wasn't my best performance. I know the other guys feel the same way. Like Luke said, you kind of feel like you let the other guys down. It's very hard to deal with. Very hard to end the season like that.
Like I said before, we'll use this as motivation. Me personally, I'll do the same thing. Coach Brey said to me before, they're a veteran group. We can learn a lot from them. For me personally, their guards are very good. Tory and me can learn a lot from their patience and their demeanor out there.
Q. If and when they do get beat in this tournament, how hard of a game that is going to be just because of their style, the way they grind?
KYLE MCALARNEY: They're a very good team. They could go all the way. The way they played us tonight, you know, just shows. We were one of the best offensive teams in the country coming into this tournament. We believe that. I think they knew that. So the way they played us tonight, it just shows the rest of the country how good they really are. We feel like they're a very good team and they deserve all the credit they get.
I feel like they can go all the way. I know we'll be rooting for them.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you. We'll continue with questions for Coach Brey.
Q. You talked yesterday about running after misses and made baskets. You never even got close to that. Did you see on tape people actually being able to do that?
COACH BREY: Well, I think we pushed it a little bit more than you would think, if you would watch the tape. Especially in the first half, we weren't getting easy stuff. But we got down, especially the first four minutes.
We were not going to be able to part of me saying that was psychologically. I'm certainly not going to say we're playing halfcourt, even though I knew we were going to have to play halfcourt against these guys. It is easier to slow a team down, and they did.
I look at 17 three point shots. I think 12 of those were good looks. In the first half, I thought we had some pretty good looks for good shooters.
We're going to have to make a couple more of those to feel good about ourselves at halftime. And when you don't, you go back down and have to guard for 25 seconds, one of the reasons they're a great defensive team is how they play offense. They wear you down, running you through screens and stuff.
What they did is really established their will and their style. That's gonna be their strength and probably not ours.
I loved the fact that we fought back, I think we had it at seven with the ball. But, boy, you know, it was a hard it was a big hole to get out of because of the style.
Q. As well as you played the other day, did you see any scenario where it could just come out this lopsided?
COACH BREY: I think you see every scenario when you're a coach. There's no question about it. I'm disappointed it wasn't a better basketball game, we didn't have a chance. The knock out punch came early.
But, you know, again, I tried to get their heads up a little bit. I love the group that I have. I love what's coming back. I'm excited. We start practice August 1st because we're going to Ireland. Certainly there's some thing you can learn and work on, but those guys need some rest right now 'cause this group, boy, they gave us everything they had.
Q. How much did their traps trouble you today?
COACH BREY: Early, I thought we maybe forced a couple. But then after a while, you know, we got looks out of it. There is where the threes came up, when they doubled and we kicked it out safely, probably the last 10 minutes of the first half. We swung it to a shooter who had a look. That's how you got to make the trap pay.
Ryan had looks that he stroked the other night. Zeller, we got to hit a couple of those. Rob, we got to hit a couple of those. That's who we are. We shoot the ball well.
Why didn't we shoot the ball well? Number one they play defense, number two you're a little tired because you play defense against them for 25 seconds. I would have loved to play more zone tonight. But when you're in a hole, you're not playing zone against them. You would have had to have more control of the game and maybe the lead to rotate D. I think we played one possession of zone and then we were digging out of a hole the rest of the game.
Q. Could you comment on the experience of coaching Rob Kurz for the last four years. That was the last time.
COACH BREY: I'm glad you asked that. I got a little emotional in the locker room just congratulating him. I know it probably wasn't the best of nights for him.
I told him yesterday at practice, here is a young man who scored a thousand points at Notre Dame. You look at the company he's in on that list, it's staggering. He's a guy who came to us 200 pounds, mono, a broken jaw. He's a great story. I wish we could have extended his season. I will always be indebted to his leadership, how he set the tone as an example of a worker in our program, a guy who made himself better.
He's got a really bright future making money playing this game somewhere. We need to start working on that for him next week. He will go to Portsmouth, by the way, so that will be a good follow up.
Q. We talked about it being a two year experience with this group. People say you'll be better next year. Losing Rob Kurz makes that very difficult.
COACH BREY: I don't think you can ever count on that. One of the things is everybody's head going to be the same? This group has been fabulous. I think maybe we had two bad practices all year. I just told them that in the locker room. They've been unbelievable. It's a great class to teach every day.
But, you know, guys change. Are we gonna still chase it as a group? You're right, that's a big loss right there. The little things. The screening. The dirty work. The defense. You just don't plug in and move on.
So I am concerned about that. I need to squelch that. Let's take a deep breath and figure that out. We'll know in Ireland. We'll know by August 20th. But that's a big loss.
He's a Notre Dame man. I'm very proud of him. I'm excited to see the opportunities he gets professionally because he's an interesting guy.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks very much, coach.